Three Late Night Thoughts About PKD’s Time Out Of Joint While Listening to Pink Floyd’s Song “Comfortably

Numb” By Frank C. Bertrand [Note: This first appeared in the prestigious fanzine PKD Otaku 1, edited by Patrick Clark] Hello Is there anybody out there? Just nod if you can here me. Is there anyone home? 3.0 I sometimes wonder if anyone thinks twice, or even once, about the title – Time Out Of Joint. Does it perhaps cause at least a small bell to briefly ring in the murky depths of one’s mind? It’s not exactly a common 21st century phrase. It has a quaint, antique air about it I’d say, as if written by William Shakespeare or someone of his ilk. Then again, a cursory dip into The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations informs me that Lytton Strachey (1880-1932) once said of Hurrell Froude: “The time was out of joint, and he was only too delighted to have been born to set it right.” Might we not also say this of Ragle Gumm? I’m not too sure though how “delighted” he was to experience his particular time out of joint. Further checking indicates this phrase is indeed attributable to Will Shakespeare, and can be found in Act I, sc. 5, l. 188 of Hamlet: “The time is out of joint; O cursed spite, / That ever I was born to set it right.” Now, this sounds more like something Ragle Gumm would say. 3.1 A couple of variants on this can also be noted. In l. ii of Hamlet the King says “Our state to be disjoint and out of frame,” while in III. Iv Hamlet notes “…the fatness [grossness, slackness] of these pursy [corpulent] times.” This meaning-loaded phrase is in at least two other Shakespeare plays: 1) Troilus and Cressida, I. ii “every thing so out of joint that…,” and 2) The Second Part of King Henry The Fourth, V. iv “thou hast drawn my shoulder out of joint.”



Nietzsche notes it as well in section 7 of The Birth Of Tragedy (1872): “In this sense the Dionysian man resembles Hamlet: both have for once penetrated into the true nature of things, -they have perceived, but it is irksome for them to act, for their action cannot change the eternal nature of things; the time is out of joint and they regard it as shameful or ridiculous that they should be required to set it right.” (“penetrated into the true nature of things” and “action cannot change the eternal nature of things” read like something PKD could write in his much misunderstood Exegesis.) It can also be found in Bk. 4, Ch. 13 of Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship (1795): “The time is out of joint: O cursed spite / That ever I was born to set it right!” In these words, I imagine, will be found the key to Hamlet’s whole procedure. To me it is clear that Shakespeare meant, in the present case, to represent the effects of a great action laid upon a soul unfit for the performance of it.”


Come on, now. I hear you’re feeling down. Well I can ease your pain, Get you on your feet gain. 7.0 I can’t help but ponder why PKD would use a phrase from Hamlet as the title for one of his novels. Are we meant to compare/contrast Ragle Gumm with Hamlet? There’s been a centuries old debate about whether Hamlet’s “madness” is real or feigned. Seems to have been hardly any “critical” debate about Ragle Gumm’s state of mind. It’s far more likely we’re meant to consider how the time (history, culture, society) of the novel, as well as our own time, is out of joint (dysfunctional?), and why. 7.1 It’s also likely that the concept of “time” is in question, is out of joint, perhaps as impacted by our notions/perceptions of “reality.” Do we need to have “time” to have “reality?” Is it Gumm’s sense of time or reality that is more out of joint? Or is it Victor’s “time” (Reality) that is more out of joint? (PKD has said “I love to just play games with time-space causality. It’s my old

interest in epistemology,” In His Own Words, p. 46. We also have these PKD novel and short story titles: Martian Time-Slip, Now Wait For Last Year, Counter-Clock World, “Time Pawn,” “A Little Something of Us Tempunauts.”) 7.2 Recall reading once something about in literature there is the time of the piece itself and the time of the content – time can become both subject and the medium of narrative – there is the time of the book and the time of the narrative as well as the time of the reader. A stronger possibility is the concept of Zeitgeist, which is German for “spirit of the times,” referring to a loose metaphysical characterization of the rich and varied matrix of ideas, philosophies, trends, social structure, political climate, etc. that comprise the “spirit” (tone, psyche, mood, ambience) of a culture during a given era, say the US in the 1950s, which is what this Phil Dick novel is about. (In an interview with John Boonstra, PKD said “I had been reading a lot of Oriental philosophy, reading a lot of Zen Buddhism, reading the I Ching. That was the Marin County zeitgeist at that point, Zen Buddhism and the I Ching.”) 7.3.1 The concept of Zeitgeist has been attributed to Hegel. In fact in his Introduction to the Lectures on the Philosophy of History (1820) he writes about “Geist” and “Volkgeist,” positing “three basic stages of the movement of Geist through history, each representing a further evolution of the consciousness of freedom.” 7.4 Also notions of “public time” (PKD’s “koinos kosmos”): medium of organic growth and fundamental change, rather than simply additive succession, and “private time” (PKD’s “idios kosmos”); a qualitative force to be experienced, not to be measured, intense yet illusory, quite “without reality” apart from the psychological life of the individual; is arbitrary, relative in quality to the passing personal emotion, continuous, yet variable in tempo.



Could also consider Wyndham Lewis’ 1927 book, Time and Western Man, wherein in the second section, “An Analysis of the Philosophy of Time,” he explores the philosophical influences of the fad he calls “the time-cult.”

Relax. I need some information first. Just the basic facts: Can you show me where it hurts? 13.0 Just who is Ragle Gumm? What do we know about him? And why are such things done to him in the name of a “civil war?” 13.1 The basics seem to be that he is 46 years old, grew up in Los Angeles and got his start as a fashion designer of Miss Adonis Hats. Later on he got into the synthetic aluminum business and started his own company called Ragle Gumm, Inc., which made “Aluminide.” (Quite a change here, from fashion design to synthetic aluminum!) Then along about 1995 he volunteers to work for the “One Happy World” government, he and his staff doing statistical research on plotting missile strikes. It seems that he has a knack for sensing patterns, a talent for solving puzzles. He is so successful that his picture is on the cover of the January 14, 1996 issue of Time magazine. Later in 1996 he spends a week at the warm mineral water spa, Roosevelt Hot Springs, on Venus. (Intriguing allusion to Roosevelt!) It’s shortly after returning from Venus that the weight of his responsibilities starts to get him down and he also has a change of heart about whom to support in the civil war, switching from the One Happy Worlders (isolationists) to the Lunatics (expansionists). He spends more and more of his time meditating about the 1950s, then one day, is indeed (psychologically) back in the fifties, which is where the novel begins. 13.1.1 Does Ragle Gumm experience a withdrawal psychosis, retreat fantasy, daydream, or fugue? We

know he feels a great deal of anxiety and guilt about the civil war, along with dread, conflict and hate. Psychologically a “daydream” is considered a form of autistic thinking where one’s imagination is controlled primarily by inner desires and not outer. There can be a “conquering hero” type who overcomes all odds and destroys all opposition to reach a goal that gives status and recognition. Or there is the “suffering hero” type who is the target of undeserved abuse, a victim of horrible affliction, a martyr for all mankind. A psychological fugue (also called “dissociative reaction”) is a disturbed state of consciousness in which one performs acts of which he appears to be conscious but of which, on recovery, he has no recollection. They arise out of an unconscious desire to escape a threatening or intensely distasteful life situation. Now I got that feeling once again. I can’t explain, you would not understand. This is not how I am. I have become comfortably numb.